Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dating and Dollar Bills

My Dear Reader,

Over the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about an address given by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf in April 2010, entitled “You Are My Hands.” One part in particular sticks out to me:

"One woman who had been through years of trial and sorrow said through her tears, 'I have come to realize that I am like an old twenty-dollar bill—crumpled, torn, dirty, abused, and scarred. But I am still a twenty-dollar bill. I am worth something. Even though I may not look like much and even though I have been battered and used, I am still worth the full twenty dollars.'"

As I consider that quote, I couldn’t help but think that there have been so many times in my life when I’ve wanted to shout a similar message to the world. I’ve just wanted to take out a megaphone and say, at full volume, “I am worth something! I am battered and worn, but I am worth something!”

And let me tell you, nothing in my life makes me want to shout that more than the decade or so that I’ve spent in and out of the dating scene. But I’m not alone in this. I know too many people who have, like me, gone through some trials in life. Sometimes these trials leave scars that we try desperately to hide, but all of the storms we’ve weathered have made us stronger. And what is so incredibly frustrating is that when it comes to dating, people ignore the strength and fixate on the scars.

So, for today, I’d like to riff off of the ideas in that quote for a bit by telling you a story I just made up.

On a nice, spring morning, I walk into a store. After a few minutes of thoughtful browsing, I pick up a book and bring it to the cashier to pay for it. When the cashier informs me that the total due is twenty dollars, I pull out that crumpled and worn twenty-dollar bill and place it on the counter. I see the cashier’s face twist into an expression of disgust as he picks up my bill between his thumb and forefinger as if any more physical contact would be bad for his health.

“This isn’t enough,” he says.

“Excuse me?” I ask.

“This bill is obviously used, and who knows where it’s been. You’ll need more if you want to buy the book.”

“But,” I politely counter, “it’s still a twenty-dollar bill. It’s worth just as much as any other twenty would be.”

“Really?” He sneers at me. “Says who?”

“The Government of the United States of America.”

“Oh,” he waves a hand in the air as if to dismiss the notion, “them.”

Before I can say another word, the cashier rummages around behind the counter, eventually producing a rubber ball attached to a wooden paddle.

“Here,” he says, beaming with pride, “your ugly twenty-dollar bill can buy this.”

It’s all I can do to stare at the man in stupefied confusion. How can he think that a paddle ball would be an apt substitution for the book I want? I didn’t just grab the book on a whim because I thought it might look good on my shelf. I chose that book because I read the back of the cover, flipped through the pages, and came to the conclusion that the book might do me good. How can a paddle ball even compare?

“Just out of curiosity,” I finally say, “how much would that cost if I had a clean, crisp bill?”

“One dollar,” he answers.

And that’s the point where I just get mad. How can this cashier think that a crisp one-dollar bill was worth as much as my battered twenty-dollar bill? Doesn’t he know that I could go to any bank in the country and easily get that ragged bill exchanged for a new one?

And for one, brief moment, I almost want to do just that. I want to leave the store and come back with exactly what he thinks he wants, just to show him that I can.

But then I regain my senses, and I realize how childish I’m being. I don’t need to take this! I earned that twenty dollars with my own sweat and tears, dime by dime, and there is no way that I’m going to hand it over for something I could get at the fair for free.  I know what it’s worth, even if this pompous idiot doesn’t. If I give him what he wants, isn’t that the same as saying that my bill is worthless?

So, instead, I walk out of the store.

There are other stores out there, and other cashiers who have at least a rudimentary understanding of how currency works. I’ll find one of those. Maybe they won’t have the same book, but at least they’ll take my money for what it’s worth. Maybe they’ll even have something I like better. I won’t know until I try.

And that, my Dear Reader, is kind of how I feel like the dating world is sometimes. Sometimes, you just want to stand on your soap box and tell the world that even though you may not look like much, and even though you have been battered and used, you're actually better for it. You're not a soldier who earned badges sitting behind a desk; you've been out there in the field and you have the scars and muscles to prove it.

If only other people saw it that way.

Oh, well. You and I, Dear Reader, know better than that. We know that we are too valuable to give away what is precious to us to those who don't understand our worth. Because, really, that would be self-betrayal, wouldn't it?

Regards, best wishes, and people who see the strength inside of you,

-Cecily Jane


Anonymous said...

I love your take on this. I couldn't agree more, and am very impressed that you have a tendency to want to tell those that question your worth that you have it. Especially since I, a woman in a similar situation as your lovely self, often have to remind myself of that fact when my crumpled $20 bill is sneered at. To remember that I'm still worth the full amount, and all that tattering just makes me a more interesting person with lots of experience with lots of different people. It's a difficult thing to remember sometimes, despite the fact that it's true.

In conclusion--way to have a healthy sense of self. :)

just a little bit mo said...

Jonathan and I were talking about your post the other night and how spot-on it is. I know the figurative amount of the money is irrelevant, nonetheless we had to agree that if everyone else is a twenty, then you are like a $1000 bill. Rare. And they just don't make 'em like you anymore.

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